Several novelties can be glimpsed on the eve of the 15th anniversary of the birth of AMISOM. The first concerns the chain of command: until now, the leadership of the military structure was assigned on a rotational basis between the various contingents. Under ATMIS, the largest contingent – currently Uganda – is to lead the mission. The number of contributing countries is also expected to be enlarged. In addition to Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi and Djibouti, it will include Rwanda, Egypt and Tunisia which have historically contributed military units to the African missions.
It is therefore hoped that there will be greater continental participation in the recovery of Somalia. The aim is also to reduce the jolts in the handover process for a more linear military action. Above all, an attempt is being made to overcome a critical point, namely the accusations of partiality levelled at some of the Mission’s components – first at Ethiopia, then above all at Kenya. Those neighbouring countries were considered by the Somali authorities to be more interested in directing internal politics than in eliminating security threats.
To continue its operations, every 6 months ATMIS will also have to ask for approval from the Somali Government, the UN and the EU. Such a novelty is a function of the new financing structure with respect to AMISOM. This is also a function of the new funding structure compared to AMISOM, which worked mainly with US and European funds; now the funding should be based on UN funds supplemented by international contributions.
Although the structures of ATMIS so far more or less follow those of AMISOM, its name states it clear that the Mission shall have a temporary character. An handover should soon make it possible for the Somali security forces to have full powers in maintaining public order and combating terrorism. This objective has been set for the end of 2023: an ambitious date, given the current lack of preparation and the continuing political uncertainties.
An attempt is also being made not to dissipate the results obtained so far: the country’s greater stability is a given when compared to the civil war of the mid-2000s. Al Shabaab has been expelled from the capital and major cities where government buildings and infrastructure hubs are now more firmly in the hands of federal and regional authorities; the swarm of terrorist militias is now more often an instrument that local actors manoeuvre to overpower others deemed to be their rivals.
The end of the electoral process is still expected on 15 March, after which the presidential elections should give a new face to the national institutions. We are therefore witnessing the first moves in the presidential elections, with the first announcements of possible candidates such as that of Ali Sharmarke, former ambassador to the United States and Prime Minister between 2009-2011 and 2014-2016, as well as that of former Premier Khaire.
The conjuncture also opens up for more international presences, including the possibility of the US military returning to conduct special operations in Somalia after the Trump-ordered withdrawal and redeployment to Djibouti and Kenya. It is a hint of a potential new phase, while violent actions took place in Mogadishu’s Bakara market and dotted Lower Juba as well.